Education Framework Blog

Focused on the Future of Education in America

Privacy Assessments Suck (...But They Don't Have To!)



If the title resonates with you, then it is likely that you have a role in ensuring the privacy and security of online technologies in the classroom. I’m also guessing that it’s a task that you secretly loathe.

Its okay, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. Privacy assessments suck. They do. They really do.

They are long, painstaking and seemingly never ending. But they are necessary. 

And despite their ability to nearly bore us to tears, privacy assessments play an important and integral role in protecting student data. They hold the answers to the questions that we seek deep within their folds. 

It’s getting to that information that is the true challenge.

Privacy Assessments Take Time  

The process of assessing online technologies is not difficult, but it’s also not particularly easy. 

More than anything, it’s time-consuming. 

Conducting a thorough assessment of a single app or website can take upwards of 30 minutes or more. Multiply that by the hundreds or thousands of apps a school or district uses, and you have an unrealistically difficult and labor-intensive mission before you.

The current go-to method involves spending countless hours reading through privacy policies (end user license agreements, terms of service contracts, etc.) to determine whether they fit the safety and privacy standards of a state, school or district. 

Efforts like these demand time, time and more time. And that is one thing that educators and administrators are already running short of.

But the work doesn’t stop here. The assessment is only the beginning.

Privacy Assessments Require Ongoing Maintenance 

Once apps and websites have been approved for usage in the classroom, they need to be added to a school or district-wide approved usage list. Then, they must be continuously managed, monitored, and maintained to make sure nothing has changed since the original agreement. 

This task, alone, takes a considerable amount of time and resources. But  it is a particularly important step in the process because app and website providers have the right to change their terms of service at a moment’s notice. Not understanding and/or recognizing this could potentially put students and schools at risk.

Thorough privacy assessments tell us exactly what we need to know. They create a visual map of what is happening with the data. They hold the keys to the answers we seek regarding data collection, data integrity, data retention and data deletion. 

Privacy Assessments Bring Value

Love them or hate them, privacy assessments bring real value to schools and districts. When applied correctly, they provide clarity and understanding. 

Assessments are helpful in creating a big picture view of what’s really going on in the classroom. They provide insight and knowledge, and bring transparency to the decision-making process. This, in turn, is extremely useful in making school and district curriculum improvements.

Keeping data safe, secure and protected involves keeping a close eye on it – from the moment it is created, through its’ entire life cycle, until it is no longer needed and ultimately disposed. Knowing and understanding what is happening with the data is is your best bet at regulating and controlling it. 

Determining how to do this, especially when dealing with multiple vendors for varying lengths of time is another challenge that educators and administrators are having to address. 

So if privacy assessments are so important, how can we minimize the pain of conducting them?

Answer: the right tools.

Privacy Assessment Management Tools Help

The shift in technology usage in schools has prompted a change in the way schools operate. No longer is it just about finding the latest and greatest learning tools for use in the classroom, but understanding whether they are safe for use by students. 

But the process to determine this is neither simple nor efficient. 

That's why we exist. 

At Education Framework, we specialize in helping educators and administrators better manage their student privacy obligations. We develop solutions that provide insight, understanding and actionable data that, in turn, lead to safer technology purchasing decisions.

And best of all, we do the privacy assessments for you! Each and every one of them. So instead of focusing your time on reading endless terms of service agreements, you can shift your attention to improving the quality and safety of the online technologies used in your school or district. 

With our tools, you can conduct assessments in a fraction of the time, understand the safety and privacy of apps and websites, monitor policies for changes, share analytics with other education leaders on your team, and most importantly, make school and district-wide improvements based upon the information you have at the ready. 

Our Privacy Quality Scoring System helps educators and administrators know, at-a-glance, the safety and privacy of apps and websites, and then dig deeper to fully understand the reasoning behind the scores they were given. Our Policy Change Monitor lets you know if and when a privacy policy has changed, so you can act accordingly and ensure student data privacy is protected at all times. 

Tools like these are extremely helpful in proactively protecting student data. Designed to simplify and streamline the process, they bring efficiency, transparency and accountability to the conversation. They also save countless hours and resources.

Conclusion

Privacy assessments play an extremely important role in protecting student data, but they demand time, commitment and dedicated resources. When approached correctly, they provide answers that help educators and administrators make safer technology decisions. 

Those education leaders that take the time and conduct thorough privacy assessments have a greater, more comprehensive understanding of the health and safety of the online technologies used in their school, and are better positioned to make informed decisions about technology usage in the classroom.

Utilizing the right tools also helps... and will certainly make the process a whole lot easier, saving you both time and money!

So if you're looking to save yourself the hassle and eliminate the suck that goes with conducting endless privacy assessments, contact us...we're here to help!

California Superintendents Tech for Schools Summit

Education Framework Inc. will be participating in the 2016 EdSurge California Superintendents Tech for Schools Summit
 
WHEN: Tuesday, July 26, 2016
7:30 am – 3:15 pm

WHERE: Computer History Museum
1401 N Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043

The California Superintendents Summit is a state-wide event for senior education and IT administrators providing an inside track on emerging tech and trends. 

The focus of this particular event is on student data privacy (SOPIPA) and the Equity of Access with the new Williams Act Compliance, going digital and leaving no one behind, piloting products in schools and creating change around edtech.

Education Framework plans to share their student data privacy and parental consent solution, EdProtect, with interested attendees and discuss techniques that school and district leaders can use to simplify the student data privacy management process; saving time, money and increasing the safety and privacy of student data.

Interested in attending? Register here > (It's free for educators!) 

Bonus: There is also a welcome reception at Google the night before. 

WHERE: Google 
1345 Shorebird Way
Mountain View, CA 94043

WHEN: Monday, July 25, 2016
6:00 pm 

Hope to see you there!

What Is Student Data Privacy?


School and district leaders know they need to protect student data, but effectively adopting and implementing a student privacy plan that includes parent, educator, administrator and policymaker input and approval, is a lot easier said than done. Efforts like this require dedicated time, commitment, clearly defined roles, a concrete understanding of what student data privacy actually is, and if you're lucky, tools to help you get the job done right.


While there are a myriad of checklists, to-dos and best practice recommendations available to help educators and administrators up their game, there is still much uncertainty surrounding this issue. But it's no surprise considering that there is, ironically, no set definition for student data privacy. And despite it being a relatively self-explanatory term, it is still complex and more-often-than-not, fraught with confusion. 


To put it simply, student data privacy is the idea of safely, securely and privately introducing online technologies into the classroom - in the form of apps, websites, surveys, assessments, etc. - without risk of compromising personally identifiable student information (PII). But it also so much more than that. 


Student data is protected under federal law (COPPA, FERPA, PPRA) and requires thorough knowledge and understanding of data collection, data use, data retention, data deletion and data integrity for all online technologies used in a school or district. It means reading endless privacy policies to know precisely who has access to student data, for what purposes and for how long. And it demands ongoing maintenance and monitoring to ensure there haven’t been any changes to the privacy policies that could compromise PII.   

Knowledge is Power

Protecting student data privacy starts with knowing precisely what technologies are being used in the classroom. Conducting a comprehensive audit of the technologies currently in use is a necessary first step towards establishing a baseline understanding and gaining a big picture view of the technology usage in a school or district.

Once there is an understanding of what technology is being used in the classroom, the next step is to conduct a thorough privacy assessment for each and every online technology to ensure student data privacy is indeed private and protected. 

For many, this step can be quite daunting, especially when considering the sheer volume of online technologies available to schools today. But with the right tools, this process can be relatively straight-forward, simple and streamlined.

Education Framework Inc. tackles student data privacy with the goal of protecting student PII while providing a great resource for industry leaders to connect with parents and their communities.

The Rise of Student Data Privacy 

Student data privacy has been a rapidly growing administrative pain point over the past few years. The massive push for 1:1 and other digital learning initiatives are major factors in this, but the equally explosive growth of new learning technologies created by third party vendors has changed the way we view student privacy. No longer can we assume that student privacy is safe, secure and protected, especially when it can be accessed by so many different entities, at different capacities, for different periods of time. Because of this, it is imperative that education leaders establish user controls that determine precisely who has access to what student data, for what purposes and for how long.


Besides the exponential growth of technology in schools, it's worth noting that there are a few contributing factors that have led to the rise of student data privacy as an immediate and necessary need, all of which are tied to the increased usage of digital media and online technologies:


1. Parents are technologically savvy. Parents are technology users themselves, so naturally they’re becoming better acquainted with security and privacy issues, especially when it comes to online technologies and services they use every day.

Many parents, especially those that are actively involved in their child’s online usage at home, want to know precisely what technologies they are using in school. More importantly, they need reassurance that they’re child’s privacy is being considered and respected.

Parents want a window into their child’s technology usage in school. Providing a way to communicate this information in a clear and concise manner helps connect the dots and bring parents into the loop, engaging them in the privacy conversation. This approach goes a long way towards building trust, as it conveys that their point-of-view is valued.

2. Technology forces transparency. One of the most unique ways the Internet has affected our society is the quick transmission of information. Education leaders have never been more powerful or in a better position to make informed decisions than they are today. 

With the right tools and approach, educators and administrators can discover safe learning technologies for students, measure growth, use actionable data to make classroom, school or district-wide improvements, and communicate with parents and communities in a way for all to understand. 

Student data privacy is about accurately and authentically conveying what technologies are being used so that stakeholders, community leaders, and parents can easily understand the health, safety and vitality of a school or districts' student privacy efforts. It is also about providing reassurance that students, schools and districts are safe from risk.

Transparency engages all interested parties and allows everyone to work together towards a greater good. Automated student privacy protection is one way for school and district leaders to adopt transparency measures and gain greater control of student privacy efforts, without heavily increasing the administrative workload. Utilizing tools that do much of the work for you - in an open and transparent way - are helpful in saving time and ensuring student privacy is, in fact, protected.

3. The right tools make things a whole lot easier. Knowledge is one of the most powerful benefits of the Internet age. Twenty-five years ago, when there was no Internet, student privacy was hardly a consideration. When technology usage started to go mainstream, particularly in schools across the country and around the globe, we simply couldn’t fathom where we’d be today. But with all this technological growth and opportunity has come an overwhelming need to increase privacy protections.

Educational development is no longer only about exploring and discovering the best learning solutions for students, but it’s also about finding technologies that are safe for use in the classroom. 

Automated solutions are the best way to capitalize on this theory, which is why Education Framework Inc. exists. We help position school and district leaders as experts in managing student data privacy by providing services that produce information at the ready. With over 1100 (and counting) online technologies assessed to date, we’re able to help educators, administrators and IT leaders make quick, yet safe and informed technology decisions for the classroom. All while minimizing the risk of exposing student information.

Food for Thought 

While there are plenty of factors that have led to student privacy’s rising value, these macro elements are the key reasons why protecting student data privacy is more relevant and important than ever before. 

Educators, administrators and IT leaders who establish themselves as pioneers in this space are positioning themselves to be helpful resources for their communities and models for other education leaders to follow. More importantly, those that take the necessary steps to ensure privacy is protected will be education leaders that parents will appreciate and trust.